Military Review

Browning Heavy Machine Gun M2 and his successors

Probably, if you ask, which of the designers weapons can be considered one of the most successful, the majority will respond without thinking, this is Kalashnikov. But this answer will be based mainly on the fact that this name is always on the ear, and everyone knows it. Those who are interested in weapons will answer the fastest - this is Browning, and I can fully agree with this opinion, since this person did a lot for the development of firearms and many of his achievements, but what is there, developments, entire individual models, are used and now, and in fact more than a hundred years have passed since the appearance of some of them. In this article I would like to talk about one of the "long-livers" among the weapons of John Browning, the machine gun M1921, better known after the modification, as the heavy machine gun Browning M2.

First of all, this machine gun is remarkable not only for its age, but also for a fairly large track record, however, it would be strange if the weapon was in service, but was not used. The Second World War, the Korean War, the Suez War - yes, in general, all the wars from 1932 of the year in which the United States participated, showed high weapon effectiveness and reliability in various operating conditions, from humid jungles to dusty deserts. However, the weapon has some problems, but about them is slightly lower. Interesting fact in stories is that this machine gun was used as a large-caliber sniper rifle, of course, that nobody used it right like that everywhere (after all, to fully use such a weapon you need to have vast experience and, what is called, to be a sniper "from God") , but cases of such use were not uncommon. So, for example, the most famous case of such an off-standard weapon use is listed by United States Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hascock, who set a record with this machine gun after hitting the enemy at a distance of 2250 meters. Despite the fact that the hit was confirmed by many people, the possibility of such a shot was questioned, but if you take into account the favorable set of circumstances and the share of luck, then why not? Moreover, at distances to 1800 meters, other snipers with this machine gun hit the enemy quite often, but this is a separate topic for conversation, the main point is that the machine gun was also used for sniper shooting and was used successfully enough, otherwise no one would talk about it. But back to a later period in history and see what path this machine gun made before it acquired its current appearance.

In 1923, the U.S. Army entered the new Browning heavy machine gun under the designation M1921, this machine gun was slightly different from what can be seen now, its main feature was the water cooling of the barrel. Many people believe that the M2’s parent was the Browning machine gun M1917, since in essence the design of the weapon is very similar, the main difference is that the older model used completely different ammunition, but since we are talking about a large-caliber machine gun, then you need to start the countdown with its large-caliber options, after all, the ammunition greatly affects the characteristics of the weapon so as not to pay attention to it. In 1932, the M1921 machine gun transfers the first modernization, which makes it more versatile in application, so now it can be used without changes in the design of the weapon itself aviation, as well as on a variety of ground installations, including anti-aircraft. In addition, the machine gun gets rid of water cooling, although its ability remains for use in anti-aircraft installations, and also gets the opportunity to eat with right-hand feed tape, and with left-hand. The new machine gun receives a heavier barrel, to ensure greater practical rate of fire, this is reflected in the name of the weapon, so two more letters HB (Heavy Barrel) were added to the M2, actually in this form with minimal changes we can observe the machine gun and now in the US Army and many others. Well, and a few figures, which, first of all, indicate what kind of weapon it was, because if it were bad, it would not be produced on such a scale. During the Second World War alone, the United States produced more than two million weapons, of which four hundred thousand were in the infantry version. The uniqueness of the weapon and its high characteristics is also indicated by the fact that literally to this day it has not been withdrawn from service in many countries, including the United States, where the army receives a fairly large amount of financial resources. Of course, during this period of time that was large enough for a weapon, they tried to replace it several times with a more promising one, but in reality it turned out that there was nothing special to change, and if there was an advantage in something else, it was inferior to M2 in another. Only now, in the US Army, they started talking about the possible replacement of this machine gun with another one, however it is impossible to say exactly what kind of weapon it is, since different sources name completely different models of machine guns. Only in 1979, the M2 machine gun received a really worthwhile addition, and this did not affect the very design of the weapon, such an addition is included in the kit for quickly changing the barrel of the weapon. So, if earlier after replacing the barrel it was necessary to make a new adjustment of the mirror clearance, now the machine gun was much faster ready for battle, so the addition was really very necessary and useful, especially for the army, which constantly carries someone “democracy” .

It is clear that a large-caliber machine gun is not a light weapon at all, only one heavy barrel of a machine gun weighs quite a lot. The body weight of the M2 machine gun is equal to 38,22 kilogram, with the M3 machine this weight increases to 58,6 kilogram, i.e. you don’t have much to defame the weapon, and even if you don’t take it together for a long time, you can attribute it to negative weapon qualities. The length of the barrel of the machine gun is 1143 millimeters, while the total length is equal to 1653 millimeters. The rate of fire is equal to 450-600 shots per minute, the passport effective range 1830 meters. The initial speed of a bullet can reach 900 meters per second, but it’s already in the 12,7x99 cartridge and not in the machine gun, although the barrel length also affects the flight speed, but not as much as the original characteristics of the cartridge. In general, this weapon is really heavy and overall, as, in principle, all the other large-caliber machine guns, although in practice many have managed to achieve a very large reduction in the weight of such weapons, for example, during the Soviet Union in the gun of the UCS “Utes”, and later in its further development - machine gun "Kord". But you shouldn’t be deceived about this issue, since, let me remind you once again, they have already started talking about replacing the M2 in the US Army, and this is only a matter of time, because obviously they will change to something more effective than we have, although in the case of complete identity of characteristics, such a replacement will not please. The most important thing is that the replacement does not happen for weapons using ammunition with better characteristics than the current ones, then the US will definitely be ahead of us.

The automatic machine gun of the M2 is quite simple, and at the same time interesting, however, Browning has never done it otherwise. The principle of operation of the automatic machine gun M2 is based on the use of recoil energy with a short stroke of the weapon. Locking the barrel of the machine gun is a locking wedge that moves in a vertical plane depending on the position of the barrel of the weapon. So, after the shot, the sleeve transmits the impulse to the bolt of the weapon, which moves backward, leading the barrel, the locking wedge moves at the same time, unlocking the barrel bore and separating the barrel and bolt. Further, the barrel continues its movement, throwing out the cartridge case and disengaging the tape links, releasing the new cartridge. When moving forward, the new cartridge is fed and the barrel of the weapon is locked, something similar can be seen in many models of Browning weapons, but successfully adapt this scheme of automatic operation to a large-caliber cartridge, you will agree, a very big job. By the way, an interesting fact for those who do not believe that this large-caliber machine gun has a sufficiently high accuracy in order to use it for sniper shooting. Ronnie Barrett's M82 family of rifles, later 107 work on a similar principle, however, in my opinion, these rifles are not the best for their purposes, just the same because of the presence of automation in them, but this is a completely different topic for conversation.

The trigger mechanism of the weapon allows firing, both automatic and single, which, given the caliber, the weapon is fully justified. The weapon is equipped with a nominally open sights, however, the installation of optical sights, including night, as well as thermal imagers, is not excluded. The most common version of the machine for this machine gun is the M3 machine, however, there are many others that allow you to install this machine gun on them, in addition, the weapon is mounted on armored vehicles. In order to change the direction of the tape when feeding weapons it is necessary to perform not the most difficult procedure for rearranging a number of parts in the machine gun mechanism, as well as switching the selector on the weapon. The machine gun cartridge case cartridges are thrown down, which has both positive and negative sides - everything depends on the conditions of use of the weapon.

It would not be superfluous in the article to bring the main competitors of this machine gun, to which various sources nod, as a weapon, which, perhaps, will replace М2 in the US Army. Of course, the sample, which will be a real substitute, may not be here at all, but it’s worth it, just in case. Immediately I would like to note that, apparently, the main drawback of the Browning MC2 heavy machine gun was considered to be a fairly large mass, because all the samples that claim to be in its place have a very low weight. In addition, the replacement of the M2 Browning machine gun is entrusted to only one company General Dynamics, from which the 3 sample of large-caliber machine guns was obtained. Unfortunately, I found accurate information only on two models of machine guns, about the third one everything is rather vague and many even question its existence. It seems to me that the third machine gun is not a machine gun at all, but the automatic XM307 grenade launcher, which, by its nature, is a direct predecessor of the XM312, only eats not 12,7x99 cartridges, but grenade 25 caliber millimeters, developed as part of the OCSW program. And provided that a few minutes are spent on the conversion from the HM312 to the HM307, then we are talking about a single weapon base. In addition, I personally find it difficult to believe that only General Dynamics is involved in the development of the new machine gun, while other companies have decided to leave such a huge client as the US Army alone, but we will rely only on what is known for sure. And it is known for sure that two models of General Dynamics machine guns: XM312 and LW50MG claim for the place of the Browning heavy machine gun. Let's try to figure out what kind of weapon it is and whether it is worthy of taking the place of the M2.

Browning Heavy Machine Gun M2 and his successorsAs already noted above, the HM312 large-caliber machine gun and the XM307 automatic grenade launcher are weapons having the same base and are fairly easily converted from one model to another, that is, the XM307 automatic grenade launcher was originally designed with the ability to adapt to a large-caliber cartridge. It is noteworthy that this particular weapon was originally planned as a replacement for the M2 large-caliber machine gun, however, because the OCSW program did not justify its investment, the work on this weapon slowed down a lot lately and only recently this automatic grenade launcher / machine gun went to the tests in the US Army. In general, the further description of the operation of the weapon’s automatics can be attributed to both the automatic grenade launcher and the machine gun.

Large-caliber machine gun HM312 is built according to the scheme of automation, working by removing the powder gases from the bore of the weapon, locking the barrel bore occurs when you turn the shutter, while the shot itself comes from the open shutter. A distinctive feature of the weapon was its low weight, and in such a weapon, low weight also means a sharper return, but not in this case. On the contrary, the recoil when shooting at this machine gun is much less than that of samples that feed on the same cartridge. This was achieved by a rather interesting system of moving parts of weapons. When firing the bolt of the machine gun breaks down from its extreme position and the forwarding cartridge rushes forward into the chamber, after the barrel is locked, a shot immediately occurs, but at the moment of the shot itself the bolt and barrel still move forward. Thus, the recoil energy is partially spent on stopping the moving elements of the weapon and pushing them back to their extreme rear position, which softens the recoil of the weapon, while at the same time allowing it to reduce its weight. But not everything is as smooth as it seems: in addition to reducing recoil when shooting, the pattern of the weapon also affected the rate of fire of the machine gun, which began to equal 260 shots per minute, for comparison, the M2 has a rate of fire of 450-600 shots per minute.

The HM312 machine gun really turned out to be very light, the body weight of a large-caliber machine gun equals 19 kilograms, which allows machine guns to change their position with greater speed and maneuverability, and the weight of the weapon is important when installed on the vehicle. It feeds a large-caliber machine gun HM312 from a loose ribbon, its supply can be configured both on the left and right side, the release of spent cartridges occurs down the machine gun, which is not always convenient, although everything depends on the situation in some cases, for example, when installing weapons on armored vehicles, this feature of the machine gun only has a positive effect on its use.

This machine gun should have come into service in the 2005 year, but it still bears the name of HM, which indicates that the weapon is not yet ready for adoption. Despite this, many have already noted this machine gun almost as not national pride, although it is not even known whether this weapon will appear in the army or will be given a refusal. However, it is possible in the form of HM307, while maintaining the possibility of using large-caliber .50BMG cartridges, this weapon will someday become used when it resolves the main problem of the entire OCSW program - the cost of ammunition. In the meantime, he is still in the testing stage, he enters the army in single copies for the “running in” and subsequent revision of the weapon. In addition, it is not at all in favor of this weapon that the company General Dynamics, which developed this machine gun, released the new model LW50MG, which also claims to be the heavy machine gun of the Browning M2, briefly acquainted with it.

Large-caliber machine gun LW50MG is a weapon made on the basis of the machine gun HM312, but it focused on the maximum simplification of the design, and accordingly to reduce the price of weapons. So, the new machine gun lost the possibility of changing the direction of the feed tape, it is served only on the left side. In addition, the weapon has lost electronics, and also slightly reduced in weight. So the body weight of a large-caliber machine gun LW50MG is equal to 18 kilograms, the weight of the machine is equal to 10 kilograms. At the same time, the weapon retains sufficiently high accuracy even at a distance of up to 2000 meters, and the recoil when fired, despite the weight, is lower than that of large-caliber machine guns from other manufacturers. The secret to reducing recoil lies all in the same system that allows the barrel and bolt of a weapon that is used in the XM312 machine gun to move. It was not possible to solve the problem of low rate of fire equal to 260 shots per minute, although it is quite difficult to call it a problem, as 260 shots per minute is enough to fire at ground targets. This machine gun was supposed to supplement, and subsequently replace the M2 heavy-caliber Browning machine gun back in the 2011 year, but, as we see, everything remains in its places for now. However, this version of the machine gun can be considered as the most likely M2 receiver, since the price of the weapon is captivating, and the weapon’s characteristics are quite good, and given the lower weight and reduced recoil when fired, this weapon does seem better than the M2 heavy machine gun, but That's how much better it is to completely replace it, the question is very controversial. It is also impossible to exclude the fact that samples from other manufacturers will qualify for the place of the M2 Browning Heavy Machine Gun, but so far everyone is silent about this.

In principle, the only serious drawback of the M2 large-caliber Browning machine gun is only its large mass, all other characteristics fully satisfy all requirements, so the issue of removing this model from service is not as urgent as it may seem. In addition, the US Army still does not have a normal "manual" machine gun, and this niche requires filling as quickly as possible, however, work is being done at a fairly fast pace, with some samples made for a much more effective ammunition compared to 7,62х51. And about the new ammunition for automatic rifles should not be forgotten. Proceeding from all this, it is very difficult to imagine that everything that is planned will be replaced overnight, since even for the US Army, for which they don’t spare money, it will be very difficult financially. However, plans and, even more so, already existing samples should be an “alarm bell,” which should make it move not only on paper and for the camera, but also in reality, as there is a clear tendency to switch to new, more effective ammunition. weapon models, and sooner or later it will happen and leave all those who did not have time far behind.
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  1. Professor
    Professor 16 October 2012 09: 21

    I like this version of him, especially the bipod. laughing
    1. 755962
      755962 16 October 2012 10: 00
      I always appreciated your sense of humor .... Soon the “double M” century, and he is in the ranks. I respect the centenarians.
  2. borisst64
    borisst64 16 October 2012 10: 04
    Our DShK is also in service, all of Africa and Asia are being fired from it.
    1. Kibb
      Kibb 16 October 2012 10: 28
      Well, with machine guns, unlike a gun, we are fine
      1. scrabler
        16 October 2012 15: 53
        The situation is better, of course, but the fact that it is in order today does not mean that it will remain the same tomorrow. It is necessary not only to tighten the "tails", but also to develop everything else, but to develop, even if there is always where to go even in the little things.
  3. Pimply
    Pimply 16 October 2012 15: 25
    A reliable thing, but heavy, and when disassembling - you are tormented by collecting
    1. Kibb
      Kibb 16 October 2012 20: 06
      Quote: Pimply
      tormented by collecting

      That yes
  4. Salut71
    Salut71 17 October 2012 08: 24
    Quote: Pimply
    A reliable thing, but heavy, and when disassembling - you are tormented by collecting

    Are krupnyaui light and easy to assemble?
    1. Basarev
      Basarev 24 January 2014 19: 13
      There are - that's how the NSV Cliff. Weighs only 25 kilograms.
  5. Chicot 1
    Chicot 1 17 October 2012 14: 25
    Good machine guns last a long time. This applies equally to the old M2NV ...
    And about D.M. Browning, I agree completely. The greatest of all gunsmiths and the unsurpassed and nowadays inventor and designer ...

    But with regards to the successors of M2NV, then not everything is so simple and smooth ...
    The XM307 / XM312 complex is certainly an interesting and entertaining thing. Moreover, damn. And even causes a certain and well-deserved share of envy ... But ...
    In the version of a large-caliber machine gun, this machine is still inferior in a number of characteristics even to the old "Browning". In particular, they indicated insufficient rate of fire, accuracy and reliability of the system ...
    The same disadvantages (though to a lesser extent) are also inherent in the LW50MG ...

    So, apparently the old M2NV will not retire soon, and may well step over the century. Just as another sample of small arms to which D.M. Browning had his hand, the M1911 pistol, did it. The same legendary "Colt" .45 caliber ...

    The author "+" in the piggy bank ... smile
  6. Red_Baron
    Red_Baron 15 May 2017 22: 41
    It seems that it is easier to leave the design with minor changes and put more emphasis on materials and technologies. In addition, for technology, no matter the weight of the machine gun.